In 1953, The Hallmark Hall of Fame debuted with Lionel Barrymore as the host and a new story format.
Hallmark began producing radio shows in 1948 with a show titled The Hallmark Playhouse topresented works of literature that were not well-known.
The concept of a postcard is simple. It just took a few pennies to buy a card, write out a thought and then for a few more pennies the postal service would take your greeting to the recipient. The excitement was enough to inspire young entrepreneur J.C. Hall to move beyond his family's general store in Nebraska. J.C. soon realized that greeting cards were more prestigious (and profitable) than postcards.
Hall was entranced with the thought that greeting cards “were more than a form of communication—they were a social custom.” The niceties of social custom was reflected when the Hall brothers renamed their company Hallmark after the symbology used by London goldsmiths in 1928. At the same time, Hallmark became the first greeting card company to advertise nationally with an ad in The Ladies Home Journal.
In 1942, Hallmark assumed sponsorship of Radio Readers Digest from Campbell's Soup on CBS. The slogan "When you care enough to send the very best" was adopted in 1944. The radio lineup expanded to include Hallmark Playhouse on Christmas day, 1947.
Hallmark Playhouse adapted stories from serious literature for radio audiences. The Hallmark Hall of Fame premiered ambitiously on NBC Television on Christmas Eve, 1951, with "Amahl and the Night Visitors", an opera written for TV. In 1953, the radio anthology program, now hosted by the great Lionel Barrymore, adopted the name of the TV series.
While TV's Hall of Fame subjects ranged from Shakespeare, popular plays and inspirational biographies, the radio program concentrated on biographies of all types of pioneers. The Hallmark Hall of Fame became the home of Lionel Barrymore's annual performance of "A Christmas Carol". The November 21, 1954, episode was a tribute to Barrymore who passed away on November 15 at the age of 76.
Hall of Fame left the radio after the 1954-55 season, and abandoned the weekly schedule on television. Although it does not have a regularly weekly schedule, The Hallmark Hall of Fame is considered TV's longest running series and is the last to keep the sponsor's name in the title.
Hallmark Hall of Fame presented dramatizations of true stories about little known people who contributed to making life better. People like Cyrus Field who connected the North America and Europe by laying telegraph across the Atlantic Ocean in 1858 or Mary Ann Bickerdyke who set up over 300 hospitals during the Civil War, clean up existing hospitals along the way.
If you like dramatizations, you may also enjoy:
An American in England,
Cavalcade of America,
Better Living Radio Theater,
Cavalcade of Kings,
Horizon's West, and Words at War.